When I was 17…

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The poem featured above was written 21 years ago when I was a 17-year-old senior in high school.  My sisters and I had gone to the mall with my mom on a Saturday afternoon.  Our chores were done, and as was our custom, we headed to the now defunct Rolling Acres Mall for shopping, socializing, and Kopper Popper! We separated from my mom, and eventually, briefly got separated from each other for a bit.  This wasn’t a problem.  We all had run into friends while there, but we knew that when we saw our mom we’d better be together.  While walking around the mall sort of by myself, I went into a major department store.  They carried a line of costume jewelry that I really wanted to check out.  As soon as I entered the store, I noticed two sales representatives stand a little taller, and I saw one of them appear to nudge the other, while looking in my direction.  I continued to look at the jewelry, which was on the counter that wrapped around the store from the front to the middle, but I soon realized I was not alone.  I had a shadow. And it wasn’t my own.  I turned and looked at the sales associate and she looked away, but when I moved, she followed me. I soon realized that I wasn’t being shadowed by one SA, I was being shadowed by two, and they were the two that I saw as I entered he store.  I had shopped in that mall my entire life, and I had never felt uncomfortable until that day.  There were people everywhere.  It was a busy Saturday…as the mall!!! But all of their attention was focussed on me.  And all of a sudden I wanted my mom.  These ladies didn’t know that I had been an honor student since the third grade.  How could they?  They didn’t know that I had already received several academic scholarships which allowed me to attend a private college for free, save $1000.00.  How could they?  They didn’t know that I had volunteered in my church as well as several state-wide agencies, or that I was a state leader for an organization that trained teenagers to positively impact and lead their peers. How could they? They didn’t know that my mom and my two sisters were in the mall probably looking for me at that moment. How could they?  I wasn’t dressed poorly.  I believe I had a pleasant smile upon entering the store. Everything that I picked up, I put down.  So what was the problem?  I did not fit the stereotype of a criminal in any way, shape or form, unless of course, you count my skin, which (in case you missed it), is permanently brown.   With racial tensions being what they are in the wake of history, unforgiveness, pre-judging, hatred, evil, pride, evolutionary thinking, and the list goes on, I try to be careful in what I share, realizing that this small blog reaches anywhere from 6-12 countries per day.  I also have quite a few friends who could come across this, and I would not want to hurt or offend them in any way. But racial profiling is something I have experienced…more than once…and usually while shopping at the mall in major department stores.   Even though this has been experienced personally by me, it has not tainted my few of al people from other cultures.  I have insisted, and will continue to insist, that God created all of us, and when He colored us He colored inside the lines and on purpose!  He isn’t color blind and neither are we, but God chooses to judge a person based on the intent of their heart and not the color of their skin.  I choose to do the same.  Those ladies who followed me around the store when I was 17, then 25, then 28, then 35, did not know me.  But I knew me. And more importantly, I knew who lived inside of me.  I knew the sacrifice He paid so that I could be free…really free.  not just free to go where I please and eat where I want, but free to live in His love and His grace and His forgiveness and His power!  And rather than choose to insist on my rights and cry racism, or profiling or unfair, even if that was the case, I chose to leave that store, each time, without spending any money, and without reinforcing stereotypes about angry black women who ‘go off’ when confronted.  Did I have rights? Absolutely! Was I being treated unfairly? Positively! But in each and every situation we can choose to display the character of Christ…from our marriages to the mall Jesus is Lord, and we can’t choose to place Him on a shelf when a social injustice challenges our rights! God’s Word encourages us to have the same attitude that Christ did:

So this is how we choose to live, and how we teach our children to live.  We all have rights, but so did He. And if Christ could lay ALL of His rights down for me, surely I can do the same for others.  Do I want to rage at the injustices in the world? Absolutely!!! Do I fear sometimes that my children will be the victims or the targets of the evil we all know as racism? How could I not. But still, we choose the way of peace, and trust in the Lord to be our banner.  And when it comes, if it comes, I pray that we respond the way Our Lord did, by keeping our eyes fixed on what’s really important, and preparing our hearts at all times to see Him face to face….

Have you been impacted by prejudice? It doesn’t matter what color we are, it touches us all. How has God dealt with your heart on this issue? I would love to hear.

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